If you want a peek inside the barn on opening days, this is where you'll find it. I'm Leanne Hunt and I've been attending opening days twice a month since 2017 with my driver Bongi and my guide dog Tango. Here is where I record what I see and hear for the benefit of overseas members who don't have the opportunity I do. I trust you'll find it interesting.

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Yesterday was an icy cold day in Johannesburg, as it is again today. We are approaching the winter solstice and the temperatures have plummeted accordingly! This means our children need extra warmth which is very difficult to provide right now. Hopefully, the fact that they are off school on account of lockdown means they can stay indoors and out of the wind and rain.

We at Knit-a-Square are being very careful to observe lockdown regulations as we are, by virtue of age, all in the higher risk category. Gathering at the barn to sort squares is therefore out, as is collecting completed blankets from our gogo groups. Then again, our gogo groups aren't meeting either. Nor are creches open. Some work continues, but it is on a very small scale. Arrangements have been made to collect squares from local knitters and to hand a few bags of completed blankets over to reputable people running soup kitchens at the informal settlements. Photos of these events can be seen on the Facebook page. It isn't much, but it's the only thing possible with our very limited stock of squares and blankets.

Overall, we are choosing to see this as a season akin to winter in a cold climate. Whereas spring and summer correspond to high energy and productivity, autumn and winter correspond to slowdown and dormancy. With dormancy, almost nothing appears to be happening on the surface and yet much is continuing underground. Similarly, at Knit-a-Square, there is still lots going on behind-the-scenes. Our members around the world are continuing to knit and crochet squares, beanies, hand-warmers and soft toys for our children. While these cannot be mailed to us at present, they are nevertheless being stored up in readiness for postage. When the postal services resume and we return to the barn, activity will once again rise to a high level.

This season of dormancy is also giving us a chance to re-assess how we do things. The barn is getting a good tidy-up and outstanding issues are being attended to. In addition, we now have a podcast to help keep everyone connected. This, together with the forum, ensures that nothing gets lost, even if circumstances make it hard to continue our work at the usual pace.

Wherever you are around the world, please continue to support Knit-a-Square it whatever way you can and pray for openings for us to deliver as many items as possible on your behalf.

It was a warm winter's day in Johannesburg today. Normally, we would all have met in the barn to open post and sort squares but, of course, things are very different now, thanks to COVID-19.

Nevertheless, I did get to chat with Ronda, Estelle and Athelé in a group call. We celebrated the fact that Athelé was able to take over 100 blankets, beanies and toys to the children in Clarens last week. Clarens is a small, picturesque Mountain town in the Free State, popular with artists and crafters. It has  a large informal settlement nearby where people live in RDP [Reconstruction and Development Programme] houses and shacks. In extreme conditions, the temperature in the area can drop way below freezing and the children struggle to stay warm in their flimsy garments. The delivery of thick KAS blankets in vivid, cheerful colours brightened up a grey day and will most certainly provide lots of comfort in the cold months ahead.

Other news is that Ronda and her husband Peter expect to be able to move into their new house at the end of July. They were having renovations done at the new house when the country went into lockdown. For the past couple of months, Ronda has been sorting cupboards and packing boxes to pass the time, but she is eager to settle into her new home. I have no doubt she will be very relieved when this transition period is over!

The gogo groups are not meeting at present because local community centres are still closed under level 3 lockdown. Those volunteers who are able to meet Ronda at the barn on occasion have collected bags of squares to sew into blankets. We have been encouraged by the number of local knitters who have come forward to contribute items, and this has kept the wheels turning slowly.

It remains uncertain whether parcels from overseas will be processed at the central Depot so it is advisable to hold on to your contributions for the time being. Alternatively, if you so wish, you can arrange for them to be couriered. However, there is no urgency as we are viewing 2020 as an unusual year. Numbers of received squares  and distributions will inevitably be lower on account of the coronavirus.

A reminder that the Knit-a-Square podcast comes out every two weeks and can be found on the podcast page of the Knit-a-Square website as well as the Apple and Google podcasts apps. Last week's episode featured an interview with Ronda's niece Sandy, who helped get Knit-a-Square off the ground in 2008, and next week i will be interviewing Bongi and Athelé about their recent distributions. Please remember to share the podcast with your friends as it’s a great way to tell others about our work!

Thanks for the latest news from S.A. Leanne. I’m an avid listener to your podcast and really enjoy your chats to the various volunteers. Like you, I also joined Knit a Square in 2017 and found it fascinating to listen to Sandy describing how she set up the website. Can’t wait for the next one.

Its a frustrating year but lets hope that the end part will be filled with blankets and that 2021 will be a bumper year.

Leanne has put up another Podcast today.  She has interviews with Bongi and Athele.  You can hear about their recent distributions.

Saturday was Mandela Day, as you all know, and several organisations partnered with Knit-a-Square to either distribute blankets or knit squares to contribute at some later date. Ronda was kind enough to discuss all these Mandela Day projects with me for an interview to be included on next week’s podcast. it was good to hear that initiatives had been organised and implemented in spite of the limitations on movement.

Another piece of good news is that the South African post office is once again receiving parcels from overseas. This means you can begin to mail your items to us again! However, your country may have its own restrictions on post, so please make enquiries before venturing out. The coronavirus pandemic seems to be resurging in many countries and we urge you all to be extremely careful when visiting public spaces.

On our weekly group call this morning, Ronda reported that she has found someone to visit the post office on her behalf to collect mail. The person lives close by and recently lost his job so is grateful to have a means to earn some money. Ronda will show him how to fill in the manifestoes and pay the post office charges. What this means is that we can keep the flow of squares, beanies, hand-warmers and toys moving from the post office to the barn and out to the volunteers to be sewn up into blankets. 

At this point, we still cannot send blanket packs to gogo groups as the community centres where they meet are closed. There is no indication of when these centres will be reopened. Indeed, even when they are, the gogos will probably stay at home a while longer to protect their health. We are, therefore, extremely grateful for the people who have come forward to help in the sewing up of blankets in the absence of our precious gogos.

This Friday, Ronda, Estelle and Athelé will be meeting at the barn, along with Liz, Audrey and a couple of the other volunteers, to return completed blankets and sort squares into blanket packs. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to attend this get-together because I don't yet have a driver and my husband has meetings all morning. I'm sorry to be missing out because it sounds as if it will be lots of fun! They were talking about bringing flasks of tea and muffins to share while they work. Hopefully, next time they meet at the barn, I will be able to join them, taking along my voice recorder to capture some conversations for the podcast!

Please remember to check for new episodes of the Knit-a-Square podcast every two weeks to hear my latest selection of interviews with local volunteers and overseas contributors. Last weeks episode included an interview with Bongi about a distribution in central Johannesburg and news of Athelé's distribution in Clarens. You can find the link to the Knit-a-Square podcast on the main page of the Square Circle Forum.

The latest episode of the Knit-a-Square podcast, featuring this year's Mandela Day activities and the story of KAS's partnership with the Soweto Gospel Choir in 2010, can be found at this link:

https://knit-a-square.com/KAS-podcast/

This is just a quick message to let you know that the latest episode of the Knit-a-Square podcast is available. It features an interview with Cath Riley of Liverpool, who chats about the system she has created for collecting knitted squares from churches in her area and how she ships them to South Africa. There is also an interview with Vivienne, one of our volunteers here in South Africa, about how the children are managing in lockdown.
You can click straight through to the audio player from this link:
Link, https://shows.acast.com/knit-a-square/episodes/twelve-boxes-of-squa...
Please remember to tell your friends about the podcast and send them the link if they aren't already members of the forum.

I shall be very interested to hear what Cath has to say.  She is a great example to us all.  I know she will be modest about this, and not want to be praised, but I think she should be!

I really enjoyed listening to your interview with Cath Riley on the Podcast, Leanne. I’ve just listened to the latest episode with Rhonda and Estelle, it was so interesting, thank you. 
If anyone hasn’t heard this podcast yet, I highly recommend it. I’m Hooked. (Pun intended!)

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